Ep 102: Kelsey’s Birth Story – Expecting the Unexpected

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It’s another birth story episode today and this one is a lot. And by a lot I mean that Kelsey experienced quite a range of different things during her pregnancies and birth.

Kelsey joins us to talk about the stress around her first pregnancy, a very wanted pregnancy that she ended because of a fatal genetic condition. She explores how she got pregnant again pretty quickly after that and what that experience was like.

She also talks about the trouble she had bonding with that pregnancy, what it was like to be pregnant during COVID, and how she had a lovely birth but experienced postpartum bleeding from a retained placenta as well as trouble with breastfeeding from a rare condition called DMER -dysmorphic milk ejection reflex. After all that, she even had to evacuate with her family because of wildfires when her daughter was only 2 months old!

So as you can see Kelsey’s been through a lot but you will also learn how she managed everything with so much strength. I was really inspired by her story and I know that you will be too.

In this Episode, You’ll Learn About:

  • Why Kelsey made the decision to end her first pregnancy due to a fatal genetic condition and the importance of discussing contingencies in advance
  • How covid is affecting prenatal care
  • What makes Kelsey “so happy” with her birth experience and how being prepared was pivotal
  • How Kelsey received a bedside D&C while she was awake and holding her baby
  • How Kelsey stayed strong in the face of several postpartum hurdles including a rare condition called DMER
  • What having a good support network can do for postpartum mental health

Links Mentioned in the Episode

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Ep 102: Kelsey’s Birth Story & Expecting the Unexpected

Nicole: It's another birth story episode. And this one is packed. You have got to hear this one. Welcome to the All About Pregnancy & Birth podcast. I'm Dr. Nicole Calloway Rankins, a board certified OB GYN, who's been in practice for nearly 15 years. I've had the privilege of helping over 1000 babies into this world, and I'm here to help you be calm, confident, and empowered to have a beautiful pregnancy and birth. Quick note, this podcast is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice. Check out the full disclaimer at drnicolerankins.com/disclaimer. Now let's get to it.

Nicole: Hello. Hello. Welcome to another episode of the podcast. This is episode number 102. Thank you for being here with me today. It's another birth story episode today, and this one is a lot. And by a lot, I mean that Kelsey experienced quite a range of different things during her pregnancies and birth. Kelsey lives in Washington state, about two hours East of Seattle with her husband, Randy and her six-month old daughter Arden. She works for a nonprofit that helps low income students with college and career preparation. And her husband is a safety manager for a construction company. They have a small hobby farm with cows, chickens, pigs, and honeybees. They enjoy camping, going to breweries and spending time outdoors. Kelsey joins us to talk about the stress around her first pregnancy. It was a very wanted pregnancy that they ended because of a fatal genetic condition.

Nicole: She talks about how she got pregnant again, pretty quickly after that and what that experience was like, including having trouble bonding with that pregnancy. She talks about what it was like to be pregnant during COVID, how she had a lovely birth with Arden, but experienced postpartum bleeding from a retained placenta, and then how she had trouble breastfeeding from a rare condition called D-MER. I had never heard of this before. Dysmorphic milk ejection reflex. So I learned something new for sure. And then even how she had to evacuate with her family because of wildfires when her daughter was two months old. So as you can see, Kelsey has been through a lot, but you will also see how she managed everything with so much strength and grace. I was really inspired by her story, and I know that you are going to be inspired by her story as well.

Nicole: Now, one of the things that Kelsey shares is how she was super prepared for things during her pregnancy. And I can not agree more about the importance of being prepared and of course an important part of that is good childbirth education. The Birth Preparation Course, my online childbirth education class, that ensures you are calm, confident, and empowered to have a beautiful birth. The updated version is finally finally being released this month. Life made it so that I'm releasing it later than I wanted to, but this month is definitely the month. And when you enroll, you get lifetime access to the course including access to any upgrades. So if you're thinking about it, jump on it. Now, check out all the details drnicolerankins.com/enroll. Also follow me on Instagram @drnicolerankins to be the first to know the exact date this month when it is released. All right, let's get into the amazing birth story with Kelsey.

Nicole: Thank you so much, Kelsey, for agreeing to come on to the podcast. I'm so excited to have you on you have a really interesting story. Like, I mean, you've just, you've experienced a lot, so I'm just grateful that you're coming on to share your story.

Kelsey: Yes. Thank you so much for having me. I've been a huge fan of yours, listen to all the podcasts. So I'm very excited to be here today.

Nicole: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. So why don't you start off by telling us a bit about yourself and your family?

Kelsey: Sure. So my name's Kelsey, I'm 29 years old. I live in Washington state. I'm about two and a half hours East of Seattle. I work for a nonprofit that helps low income students with their college and career path. So I work in high schools in the area. Um, I'm married to my husband, Randy. We've been married for about two years now. Um, he's a safety manager for construction company. We stay very, very busy on our little farm. We have, uh, five cows, three in which are pregnant right now. Oh, wow. So it will be a really fun year. We're new to this. So we'll see how that goes. We, uh, we have two dogs, we have a little farm going on, a garden. Um, and then our newest addition, Arden, our daughter is six and a half months old.

Nicole: I love it. And I love that name.

Kelsey: Thank you. It's unique without being too hard to spell or anything. That's why we chose it.

Nicole: Exactly. Exactly. So we're gonna talk about Arden's birth, but we have to start and talk a little bit about your first pregnancy, because that certainly informed how your pregnancy went with Arden. So, um, you actually ended up ending your first pregnancy at 15 weeks because you discovered that the baby had some severe chromosome problems. So what was that like for you?

Kelsey: It was very, very surprising. So, um, we started trying for our first baby around, uh, March, April of 2018, we got pregnant instantly. So that was a huge surprise. Um, didn't really have any complications at the beginning of that pregnancy, a little bit of bleeding, um, that, that sounded normal in an early pregnancy. I didn't have my first ultrasound until 10 weeks. So we had a little bit of a wait between, but I had some morning sickness and bleeding and I just thought this is normal. This is great. So we, um, did all of our planning. We picked out names and started the nursery and told all of our family and friends, we were so excited. And then we got to our first ultrasound at 10 weeks and they were a little reluctant about telling us the results of that ultrasound. They said, you know, for the most part, everything looks fine, but we are seeing some fluid buildup, um, behind the neck.

Kelsey: So we want you to come back, uh, for the, I don't even know how to say it, the nip- N I P T at 14 weeks. So, uh, but they said, you know, this is normal. This can happen. It's no big deal. We'll see how those results come back. So don't worry about it too much. Um, but of course I was worrying, um, I had a horrible gut feeling that, you know, this wasn't going to end up well for us, but we tried to stay optimistic. Um, we ended up taking announcement photos to, uh, announce on social media and everything we wanted to announce on Father's Day, which was between that week period. And I just had a sinking feeling that we shouldn't do it. Um, so we decided not to announce. Um, but again, most of our family and friends knew and, uh, we just had the longest wait of our lives for those, uh, waiting for that next ultrasound.

Kelsey: Um, so when that, uh, ultrasound came up, my husband actually had to work out of town. So I went to the ultrasound on my own and, uh, it started out really normal. I went in, spoke to the ultrasound tech, talked about our weekend and whatever else. And then all of a sudden she went completely silent. And, um, I tried to hold a conversation with her and she stopped the ultrasound and said, I have to go get your doctor. And I knew at that point, obviously something was wrong. I couldn't tell, I didn't know what I was looking at, um, on the screen, but her demeanor definitely let me know that, um, my gut feeling was correct and something was definitely not what it was supposed to be for that, um, that pregnancy. And so the doctor came in and my doctor was out of town.

Kelsey: So I actually hadn't met my OB at this point yet. I had, um, a different OB that came in and speak to me. Um, and they just let me know, you know, there's a significant fluid buildup behind the neck. Um, in the first ultrasound, we, we weren't really sure it could have resolved itself, but it's getting much worse. It's called a cystic hygroma it's explained to me, um, and there's a very, very good chance this pregnancy will not, um, make to term. And so I kind of just disconnected at that point. I was again by myself, my husband was out of town for work. So I processed that on my own. Um, and they decided to send me to, um, University of Washington, maternal fetal medicine. Um, we do have a clinic in the city that I live, so that was convenient. And they wanted me to go the next morning. So I knew it was pretty severe if they scheduled that so quickly, especially after waiting all this time for these ultrasounds. Um, so I, my husband again was out of town. So I called my mom and who lives four and a half hours from me and let her know what was going on. And she dropped everything and drove to my house to stay with me for the night. And she came with me to that first appointment with maternal fetal medicine.

Nicole: Oh gosh. That's a lot.

Kelsey: Yes. It was very, very stressful. I think in that moment, I just, I disconnected so hard to that pregnancy and just thought, Oh my gosh, I, I can't believe it. I felt like I was living in someone else's body during that process.

Nicole: Right, right. So you, you made the difficult decision that you were going to end this very challenging pregnancy.

Kelsey: Yeah. So my husband and I spoke about it and we actually spoke about this before I even got pregnant, what we would do with genetic testing. And, um, what happens if the baby has down syndrome or, you know, any of those variables.

Nicole: Interesting. Because a lot of people don't talk about that ahead of time.

Kelsey: So I am a notorious planner, so I wanted to put out every single thing that could happen.

Nicole: Right, right, right.

Kelsey: So we, we did already speak about it and, um, you know, we thought, okay, well, let's just go with the flow. And neither of us have any type of history of any of this. So he, we didn't think it would come up at all. Um, so yeah. So when I first found out that something was going on, they weren't sure what the diagnosis was. They threw out, um, they throw out down syndrome, but they said it looked much more severe than down syndrome. They throw out, uh, Tracy nominee, trisomy 13, Turner syndrome. Um, and I think a couple others too. And they said, it's probably one of these based on the severity, but we're not sure which one. Um, and none of those are compatible with life. So we did speak about it and said, if that's what they're saying, you know, we have to make that tough decision. We didn't want to make that decision. We never thought we would have to make that decision. Um, but we did speak about that, um, before going into my maternal fetal medicine appointment, just so we kind of were on the same page.

Nicole: Gotcha. Gotcha. And then did you get any type of genetic, did you get amniocentesis or anything, or were they like pretty cert or were you comfortable with like, this is, I understand what they're saying, that this is not compatible with, with life and you were comfortable with that?

Kelsey: Yeah. So once we did, um, another ultrasound, I did another one, um, at the specialist and that was much more in depth. They, they pretty much reassured that there's, there's no way that this pregnancy will make it to term it's extremely dangerous. If you try to make it to term, they were pretty certain that the cystic hygroma would burst. And so they were very, very nervous about, um, just leaving it. They considered, you know, if you are choosing not to terminate, we want to send you to, uh, University of Washington in Seattle to be monitored. And, you know, we are very, very concerned about you just walking around, having this going on. Um, so it was pretty easy at that point to make that decision.

Nicole: Gotcha. Gotcha. And then, so within, so the Mo was it within the span of a week, or how many days from when you first found out to when you had the procedure?

Kelsey: So I had my appoint, my original NIPT ultrasound on, uh, I think it was a Tuesday and I had my maternal fetal medicine appointment on a Wednesday. And then at that appointment, um, they pretty much scheduled the DNC uh, for the next morning. So it was within three days that we went from not knowing anything to having the procedure.

Nicole: My mouth is legitimately wide open. Like that is, that is so crazy fast. And then in one hand, it's like, I'm not saying that in a bad way, like, you kind of want to move things along, but I can only imagine like the mental, like what that felt it, like on one hand, it's like, you're getting resolution, but on the other hand, you're getting resolution, you know, like, Oh my goodness. So was the procedure itself uncomplicated and the physical recovery okay?

Kelsey: Very uncomplicated. Um, so I went in, my husband came home, thank goodness. So he came home, my mom left. Um, we had the procedure at, I think it was eight in the morning, first thing in the morning. Um, physically, it was easy. It was probably 40 minutes, um, check in, check out. Um, but mentally it was, it was really, really tough. Um, I, when I walked into the, to the, or to check in, I couldn't even let her know who I was. I couldn't speak. I was just so distraught and upset and just couldn't believe what was happening. So it was very, very tough mentally.

Nicole: Sure, sure. Sure. And then were you offered any resources from within the healthcare system to like help with the mental piece of that?

Kelsey: Not really. So, um, they gave me a little bit of paperwork about a support group, I think. Um, and that was about it and I didn't pursue it. I just kind of along, um, with my recovery. The recovery was really quick. And then I think I had an appointment the next week with my OB, um, to just check and make sure everything was healing okay. And she recommended that I would see a therapist, but I never did. At that point, I was like, I can handle this. I can cope by myself. Um, and, uh, that turned out to not be the case later on, but in the moment I think I was just so struck by everything that happened. I just, I couldn't even process it.

Nicole: Sure, sure. Sure. And then you had to tell everyone about, or tell people something about what happened?

Kelsey: Yeah. So a lot of people knew at that point. Um, we just told them we had a loss. We didn't go into details. I was embarrassed, ashamed, guilty. Um, I didn't want to explain it to people. I just, it was a lot easier to just say a loss. Um, so I, we told a few people and then I think it trickled out because people stopped asking, but it was really tough to have all those people know. And, um, not really want to go into details about what we had gone through.

Nicole: Sure, sure. Sure. So how soon after that, did you get pregnant?

Kelsey: Quick. So after the DNC, I actually didn't have a cycle again afterward. Um, my OB said that's normal. It can take a few months. Um, this was in June, late June, that all happened of 2019. Um, and by September I got pregnant again. So there was a few months in between and I didn't have a cycle in between there and back to me being a planner beforehand, I planned out all my cycles. I knew exactly when I was ovulating. I like track that stuff like crazy. And I didn't at this point. I really, um, I didn't really want to know. I, I just kinda thought, okay, let's just let things figure themselves out. It obviously wasn't the right time. So let's see what happens. Um, and then in late September, I was at a work event and I started getting really bad cramping on one side and I don't get cramping ever I don't get camping with, um, my periods or anything.

Kelsey: So I knew something was going on and I had only had this cramping one time before, and it was, um, implantation cramping for my first pregnancy. So I knew, and I just was at that event, like, Oh my gosh, I'm pregnant. I know I am. Um, I ran to the bathroom to see if I was bleeding and I wasn't, but I, I just knew something was going on. Um, so I ran home and took a pregnancy test and I didn't, I wasn't pregnant. It was negative at that point. Um, but I think I took one the next morning and I had the faintest little line on the stick and I was like, Oh, I have felt no excitement, no joy. I felt terrified. Um, so I, I have a lot of guilt now because of that.

Nicole: Oh, I mean, it was a lot like, I mean, that's, I feel like that's completely natural response because you, the first time was so crazy. So, I mean, I'm guessing where you just thinking like, is, is the same thing gonna happen again?

Kelsey: That's exactly what I, I just could not go through that process again. And, um, I remember it was in the morning I took the test and I just threw the stick down to my husband and just said here, and he was like, Oh, this is great. This is exciting. And yeah, I made this big elaborate announcement to him the first time. And this time I was like, I no, here you go, I don't know what's going to happen this time.

Nicole: I'm trying not, I mean, in hindsight it's like, but I can totally see, like I can empathize with that 100%. Yes.

Kelsey: So I I'm sure I had a glimmer of excitement, but I mostly felt just anxiety about what was about to happen. And I just couldn't imagine going through this again, especially making it to the safety zone, you know. I was in the second trimester and I thought that's when everything got better and, um, everything was good to go. And so I just thought I cannot go through this for another three months again, where I just, you know, hope for this exciting pregnancy and then get disappointed. So, um, I was very, very guarded and I didn't tell anybody. And I just, um, thought, you know, we'll see what happens. I'm not gonna get excited like the first time. So I feel like the first time definitely hindered my, um, experience. Um, it took a lot of the joy away from what I think a lot of other women get. So that's really tough for me too.

Nicole: I can understand that then. Was there ever a point during your prenatal care when you felt like when you felt better? Like when the anxiety let up?

Kelsey: Yes. So they took care of me. Um, from the beginning with the second pregnancy, I went in very early and I did the blood work. I had early ultrasounds. Um, so I definitely had a lot of reassurance this time. I think they were also a little nervous because I got pregnant so quick afterward and they, um, didn't know if this would happen again. It ended up being, um, Turner syndrome for the pregnancy. So, uh, pretty rare, there was no family history of it. It was a girl, um, because that only occurs in females. So they thought, you know, this is a fluke, but we're going to watch you from now on just to see if this happens again. Um, so I did have a few ultrasounds early on, everything looked good. Um, and I think it was about the 14th week again is when I did the genetic testing and the blood work or the blood work genetic testing and the ultrasound and everything was coming up perfect. And that's when we realized, okay, this is good. We are, you know, getting closer and closer and everything's looking great. So I was still going to the maternal fetal medicine specialists at this point. And when they said, you know, you really don't need to come here anymore. Everything's looking good. We can end your referral. And I was like, no, no, I want to go to you the whole time. I want ultrasounds. And I just want to know that everything's good. Um, and so they did let me do my 20 week anatomy scan there as well. And then they said that I was done. So I did go to a specialist until 20 weeks.

Nicole: Okay. Okay. Okay. So do you ever feel like you were able to bond with the baby eventually during the pregnancy?

Kelsey: Later on, yes, definitely. Um, I was just so nervous at the beginning. Um, and I just, I jumped into things so quickly I think in that first pregnancy that it really took me a long time in the second pregnancy to come around, to choosing the names and, um, planning ahead. Like I just, I didn't want to jinx anything, if that makes sense. So we, we didn't tell anybody, um, until 18 weeks is when we announced. So we waited quite a while. Um, and that's when we announced our family and everybody all at the same time. Um, so I think at that point, it got a little bit more real that, you know, this is actually happening and everything's good. And, um, people are here to support you. I just, you know, they were the first time too, but I just didn't want to talk about it. I didn't want go into anything else with it. So, um, sometime, but by, by that second trimester, first trimester being done, going into the second, I did feel a lot better. She started kicking around 18 weeks, so that was really reassuring. And then, yeah, I had a pretty good pregnancy after that point.

Nicole: Okay. And no problems with your pregnancy or anything like that?

Kelsey: No. I had a placenta previa at 20 weeks, so my placenta was covering my cervix at the beginning. They weren't too concerned about it. Um, if anything, it kind of helped because I got more ultrasounds later on, um, especially with, because I, uh, gave birth during the COVID era. I did have more appointments because of the placenta previa. So it ended up being a little bit of a blessing in disguise.

Nicole: Gotcha. So let's go ahead and talk about how things changed because of COVID. How did your prenatal care change? How did the things suddenly like, Oh my goodness, what in the world is going on, it's a pandemic?

Kelsey: It was crazy. So I was about 28 weeks when COVID started, um, coming around and becoming an issue. Um, so my appointments did change dramatically. I was going in obviously, and then they started doing car visits. I don't know if a lot of other women did car visits, but I did quite a few car visits where they come out to your car and they do the fetal Doppler and they check your blood pressure. And then your doctor just calls you on the phone and interesting. So I did a few of those. Um, and then I still did have my ultrasounds about once a month to check on the previa. So I did go in every once in a while, but of course my husband couldn't come with me. I went alone to those and they were very quick and you had to stay in one room. And, um, so it did change quite a bit, but I'm glad that I had those ultrasounds because, um, I think a lot of other women at my practice didn't go in at all. Um, wow. So it was kind of crazy.

Nicole: Yes, yes. Yes. So you gave birth in what month?

Kelsey: I gave birth in June.

Nicole: Okay. So it was really just starting to crank up then.

Kelsey: It was in, in June, the County that I live in had the highest COVID rates per capita in the United States.

Nicole: Oh, okay.

Kelsey: So it was very, very nerve wracking.

Nicole: Oh my gosh. I can only imagine. So then what did you do to prepare for your birth?

Kelsey: So I, um, I started working from home in March as well. Um, so I had a lot of time to listen to podcasts and do online, um, childbirth classes. I was doing prenatal yoga before COVID hit. So, and I really, really enjoyed that. So I was really bummed that that got canceled. So I tried to do it at home. Um, but it just wasn't the same, but I tried to do prenatal yoga. I walked a ton, I walked five to 10 miles a day just to get out of the house. I have, we have properties. So I walked around and went out to the cows and did our farm tours and did all of that. But I would listen to, um, childbirth classes while I was doing that. So I would listen to, um, birth stories and informative podcasts. And that's where I really got a majority of my information.

Nicole: Gotcha. Gotcha. So what were some things that you wanted for your birth?

Kelsey: Um, so I was pretty open to anything. I had placenta previa until about 35 weeks is when that finally moved. So I was kind of on track for a C-section for a majority of my pregnancy. So I really just was okay with anything. I knew that there was nothing I could do to change that. Um, so I researched C-sections like crazy. And then I also researched vaginal births, like crazy. So I was really open to any type of birth that was coming to me.

Nicole: So not just open but prepared like you were ready.

Kelsey: I was ready. Yeah. And I just, I knew listening to so many birth story podcasts. I knew like, even if you have a plan, it could change. So, and I'm a planner, so that really freaked me out. So I wanted to know everything, anything possible that could happen. I wanted to be prepared for it. So I found that stories were the best way to prepare, just listening to what other women had gone through. Um, and just being prepared for anything. I really didn't want to be induced, um, because I heard so many horror stories about these terrible inductions and how long it took and turned into emergency C-sections. Um, but, uh, listening to more podcasts about it and listening to more perspectives, I came around to that idea as well.

Nicole: And that ended up being necessary because you did ended up, end up being induced, correct?

Kelsey: Yes.

Nicole: Yeah. So tell us about that, your induction and your labor and how your birth went.

Kelsey: Yeah. So at the end of my pregnancy, I was clear to have a vaginal birth. Um, I started progressing pretty quickly at the end of my pregnancy. So around 37 weeks, I did start dilating, um, having some pretty strong contractions, but nothing that actually came out of it. So I was walking a ton and doing everything I could, my doctor was convinced I would, um, go into labor early on my own just because of the progress I was making. And I never did. So by my 39th, of course it was my first pregnancy. So, you know, or my first birth. So I, um, that's normal to go over exactly what she told me at around 37 weeks that I could go early. I was set, I had my bags in my car and I was like, this is it, I'm going this week, but it did not happen that way.

Kelsey: Um, I made it to 39 weeks. Um, and at that appointment I was already three centimeters dilated and 100% effaced and I was ready to be done. Um, and I was measuring, my baby was measuring about 10 and a half pounds. So they thought she would be a very big baby. And my OB at that point said, you know, you're, you're so close. Um, I really think you're going to go into labor on your own and the next couple of days, but if not, let's just schedule an induction, um, after your due date. And if you haven't had her by then, that's when you'll have her. Um, so I made it to my induction and I went in and all I needed was, um, Pitocin to kickstart my labor and they broke my water and I was off to the races.

Nicole: Gotcha. Now there are many OBs who would have said, we think your baby's 10 1/2 lbs. You should get a C-section. Was there any discussion of that at all?

Kelsey: No, my doctor, um, she was really cool about it. She, uh, said, you know, she's measuring 10 and a half pounds, but we know from research and from experience that, that doesn't mean she's going to be that large. Um, we, I would like for you to go into labor on your own, I really don't want to do a C-section on you unless we absolutely have to. So she was pretty confident that it would all work out and it ended up working out just great. But I was nervous about delivering a 10 and a half pound baby.

Nicole: Gotcha. Gotcha. And how much did she actually end up being?

Kelsey: She was eight pounds. Eight ounces.

Nicole: Okay. And that's still respectable that's okay. So that's like you can't fit a lot of newborn clothes in an eight pound baby, but not quite 10 pounds. It shows you how off ultrasound can be.

Kelsey: Definitely. Yeah. And I was a 10 pound baby and my husband was a 10 pound baby. So we were pretty convinced she would be 10 pounds, but not too bad.

Nicole: So the, the Pitocin, I mean, it wasn't very long. And, um, did you get an epidural?

Kelsey: I did. So I, um, I went in for my induction on a Sunday evening, around six o'clock. They had to do the COVID test, so that slowed things down. Um, I get did the COVID test that took about an hour to get those results back. And then, um, they started my Pitocin, broke my water pretty much immediately. And then, um, I got an epidural an hour or two later. Um, I contractions weren't as terrible as I was expecting. I really went into childbirth thinking this is going to be the worst and most painful experience of my entire life and I am not going to be okay. And so

Nicole: Kelsey! You were already like, I don't know about this.

Kelsey: I just knew. I was like, if it's better than that then great. But I, I think it's going to be the worst thing I ever do. So I was super negative about, and then the contractions weren't that bad. They were strong with the Pitocin, but they weren't the worst thing I've ever felt. They were, they were tough, but, um, by the time I couldn't breathe through them and cope through them. That's when I got the epidural. Um, I stayed at around three centimeters dilated for, for a while for a few hours. They had me on the peanut ball, which was very uncomfortable to rest with a big giant peanut ball between your legs. But, um, I did that for a few hours. And then, um, around four in the morning I started, I just had a wave of nausea come over me and just severe, severe pressure down low.

Kelsey: And I knew that I was in transition. I knew that this was it. Um, and it happened really quick. My doctor said when I came in and she broke my water, like, yeah, you'll have the baby by tomorrow or yeah, tomorrow night. So it usually takes about 24 hours, uh, blah, blah, blah. But at four in the morning, I knew that that was it. Um, so I, I called the nurse and I was vomiting. I was shaking really bad. I, um, I was like, Hey, I think this is a, I think it's time. And she checked me and I was 10 centimeters dilated. So we were ready to go. Um, she had to call my doctor because it was four in the morning, uh, deliver my baby. And she got me all set up, uh, to deliver. She wanted me to do some practice pushes, but, uh, the baby's head was already coming out. So she basically told me don't push, keep her in. We have to wait for your doctor to get here. Um, so by the time my doctor got there, she ran in in her pajamas scrubbed in, I had Arden in two pushes, so it was quick.

Nicole: Wow. Wow. Wow. Wow. That is nice. But certainly it was nice. Some people get overwhelmed with that, but did it feel good that things went pretty quickly and smoothly?

Kelsey: It did. I was anticipating again the worst, but I anticipated to push for a really long time. And so the fact that I thought for sure that would be the hardest part and the fact that it wasn't, um, was really, really nice. Um, when she was born, I was absolutely shocked that it was so quick. I kind of forgot about everything else going on in the room. She was beautiful and healthy and strong. And, um, I just, I couldn't believe it.

Nicole: Aw, that is wonderful. That is wonderful. And I assume your husband was there with you.

Kelsey: He was there with me. He was able to stay. Um, they only COVID tested me, but if, as long as I was negative, he could stay as well. So.

Nicole: Gotcha. Gotcha. And, um, so then tell us what happened with the placenta.

Kelsey: Yeah. So after Arden was born, you have to obviously deliver the placenta. Um, it was taking a really long time. Um, and I, I didn't know how long this usually took. Um, so I, I didn't know any different, but, um, it came out, but it was still attached to my uterine wall. In in one spot. So my doctor had to, and I was hemorrhaging in at this point because, um, I don't know that I had second degree tear. It all happened so fast. I was losing a lot of blood. So they did give me quite a few shots. Um, and they upped my Pitocin, I believe too at the same time to help with that. So there was a lot going on as I have this beautiful baby that I'm trying to do skin to skin with. There's just a lot going on down there. Um, and she ended up needing to do an emergency DNC, um, just right then and there as I was awake and holding my baby. So that was, um, scary. And I honestly don't think I knew the extent of how, um, how risky that was until after it was all done. I was still on cloud nine in disbelief that Arden was born and with me that I really didn't notice what else is going on.

Nicole: Gotcha. So did you have to go back to the operating room or was she able to get things out like right there at the bedside?

Kelsey: She just did it all bedside. So I stayed in the same room the entire time.

Nicole: Okay. Okay. Yeah. It, postpartum hemorrhage is, um, it can be really serious and what happens. It's like the placenta, like normally when the placenta comes off the wall of the uterus and the uterus squeezes down and it contracts, if it doesn't come all the way out, it just interferes with that process. And all this blood flow is still going through the uterus. So I'm glad that you were in the right hands. And one of the areas where we get into trouble is not recognizing it and treating it seriously enough. So it sounds like you had a great OB who was on top of things.

Kelsey: I did. It took a long time for that to happen. And then I had to do internal stitching, um, and then external stitching as well. So that whole process took about three hours. I feel like from the time she was born to the time that I was all stitched up and the room was cleaned up, it was, it was quite the process, which I realize afterward that, that wasn't normal, you know.

Nicole: Gotcha. Gotcha. So how did you feel about your birth experience overall?

Kelsey: I was so happy with my birth experience. I couldn't have planned it better. It was a lot quicker than I thought it was, would be, it was extremely empowering. I, I worked so, so hard to, um, make sure that I was physically fit to give birth and mentally ready to give birth. And so overall, um, even with the, uh, placenta retention and everything, I was pretty happy with the entire experience.

Nicole: That's good. That is good. Now in the postpartum period, you mentioned when you wrote in that you struggled with breastfeeding and then something called D M E R that I had not heard of before, actually. So tell me about that.

Kelsey: Yeah, so that's probably the roughest part about my birth experience was the postpartum period. Um, and directly after I gave birth to Arden because of COVID the lactation consultants at the hospital had their hours cut. So I really didn't have a lot of support, um, with the lactation and breastfeeding afterward, the nurses were helpful, but they were like, Oh, we're not experts. We would rather you talk to the lactation specialist, but they weren't there the day that she was born, they were there the next day. So I had to wait pretty much an entire day to learn to breastfeed. Um, and so we lost a lot of that, um, that bonding time at the beginning. Gotcha. So that was really tough. Um, I ended up not really being able to breastfeed even when they came in, we tried the nipple shields and everything, and it just wasn't working for us.

Kelsey: So I decided pretty much just out of desperation that I was going to pump. Um, and I was open to any of it. I really was open to breastfeeding, pumping, formula. I wanted to keep an open mind about, um, whatever would work best. Um, and so I took the pumping route. Um, my, I didn't realize that your milk, it took a few days for your milk to come in. So that was surprise for me. Um, but it did. And I was pumping and I absolutely hated every single moment of pumping. I, um, when I would pump, I would get nauseous. So I was throwing up when I was pumping. I was so weak at the end of a session that I couldn't stand up. Um, I was having anxiety attacks every single time I would pump. And it got to the point where I, I dreaded it all day. It was all I thought about all day, every day was dreading pumping and then pumping and, and dreading it while I was doing it.

Nicole: Oh my gosh. That is so hard.

Kelsey: It was awful. And I had, um, an extreme oversupply, which at the beginning, I thought was a blessing because, Oh, sweet. I can freeze all this milk and be good and get ahead. But I ended up getting mastitis a couple of weeks after I delivered, and that was awful to have mastitis and trying to pump and have a newborn. Um, so I had a really tough time with it and I just kept hearing, you know, keep going, you can do this, it'll get better. But it got to the point where I would pump and I would have such a severe anxiety attack while I was pumping, um, that I couldn't hold my baby or feed my baby cause I was shaking so bad. Um, and so I ended up going to my six week appointment. I got diagnosed with postpartum anxiety and she recommended that I speak to a therapist.

Kelsey: So I did, um, we spoke through the pumping and how that was a big trigger for my anxiety. And then I heard of, um, Deemer, D M E R or dysmorphic milk ejection reflex. So it's basically something that the let down or the milk, um, ejection triggers I don't know what chemical it is that causes anxiety. Um, and so my therapist told me about this and then I heard about it on a few podcasts after I stopped pumping. So it's, it's rare, but it is something that women do suffer from. Um, and I, I just couldn't get over it. I mean, I just, I dreaded pumping so bad that it, it really hindered my entire feeding or, um, process and my experience. And so I ended up stopping pumping around two to three months. It took me a while to wean off, but, um, I chose to stop doing that because I just I couldn't function with anything else.

Nicole: Oh my gosh. How did, I mean, oh, that's a lot. I mean, because you feel it's like your supply was fine, but it was just, the process was just like terrorizing your body and your mind.

Kelsey: Exactly, exactly. And I really do think, I mean, I had terrible postpartum anxiety, um, and I really think a lot of it was surrounding the pumping and experience for me because I noticed that when I stopped, I was seeing the therapist at this point virtually because of COVID, um, that maternal, uh, therapist or a postpartum therapist afterwards. And I noticed when I stopped pumping everything significantly improved, my mood improved, my anxiety improved, I felt a lot better. So it was definitely connected to that.

Nicole: Good. Good, good, good. Um, and have you, um, how, did you beat yourself up about it? I guess.

Kelsey: Yes. I had a really, really hard time with the entire process. I went in telling myself it's okay to formula feed. It's okay to pump. It's okay to do whatever you need to do. And then when you're actually in that process, it's just so hard to, um, make that decision. And especially because my supply was so good, I felt like such a failure that I couldn't keep up with that. And I saw so many other women struggling to make any, um, any type of, uh, supply or anything. And here I am with an oversupply and I was stopping and I just felt so much guilt about that.

Nicole: Sure, sure. I can understand that. I mean, I hope you don't feel guilty now. You know what, honestly, after we probably all carry a little bit of guilt. I mean, my kids are 11 and 13 and I had to use formula and I still feel guilty to some degree, even though they're fine, but you know, it's a point you have to realize, like in order for your baby to be healthy, the mom has to be healthy and you just had to do what you do, you know, do what you needed to do in order to like get yourself healthy.

Kelsey: Definitely. And now that I'm six months postpartum. I, you know, I see my baby and she's thriving and she's ahead on milestones and everything else. I'm like, why did I care so much? Why did I beat myself up so much? But you know, when you're in the moment, it's just, there's so much going on and you're sleep deprived. And I was just so nauseous and depleted and tired. I just, I felt like such a failure at being a mom. And it was just heartbreaking and then not being able to have that support, um, with, you know, family and friends being able to come over and talk me through it. I just really sat in my feelings. And that was really hard.

Nicole: Yeah, for sure. For sure. Now then on top of that, when people are going to hear this and be like, how can there possibly be anything else that happened, but on top of that you had to evacuate because of a wildfire.

Kelsey: Yes. So that happened around, um, two months, Popo, postpartum Arden, about two months old. Um, we live in Washington state, but not the rainy side of Washington. We live on the more deserty side of Washington state and forest fires are pretty common in the summer around here. Um, but we've never had them near our house. Um, they're usually pretty far out of town and you know, you see them from a distance. And, um, this summer they got very, very close. So we went away for, um, a camping trip, um, in August and we had our family's motor home with us and we went away and then we came home and there's a lot of smoke around and we thought, Oh, there's a wildfire somewhere, but I'm not sure where it is. And it ended up being on the other side of the hill, behind our house. Um, and so I was unpacking our motor home and we were getting ready. And then you just start seeing the flames cresting over the hill.

Kelsey: And it was absolutely terrifying. Um, there was ash falling everywhere. The sky went totally black. Um, and so we started slow. I mean, I was, I had a two month old at this time, so I was trying to, you know, do bath time and bed time and do all this while my husband's frantically watering our yard and getting our cows situated and trying to get them out of here and we're packing up our stuff. And it was just awful. It was like an out of body experience. Um, so we ended up getting the call that we needed to evacuate. Thank goodness we had that motor home with us still, and that we were borrowing from our family. Um, so we ended up just packing everything back in there. Um, our dogs and our daughter and all of her stuff, her sound machine and our milk and everything.

Kelsey: And, um, we ended up just staying the night at my husband's work for the night just cause it was far away and we could let our dogs out in the parking lot. And we had family that offered, but we just have so much going on, um, with like our dogs and the baby that we felt bad intruding on anybody else. So we stayed in the motor home for another night. Um, we tried to get our cows out, but all the roads were blocked off. So we had to leave our cows and just kept the sprinklers on. And it was just, it was just awful. It was very, very stressful. Um, luckily the next morning they diverted it, so it didn't get any closer to us, but it was about a mile away. So it did get very close.

Nicole: Oh my gosh. So how long, I mean, could you go back the next morning or did you have to stay away?

Kelsey: We were able to go back. I don't actually think we were allowed to go back the next morning, but we did go home. Um, because we could see, um, that it was pretty far away and our road did get unblocked again. So we did go home the next day.

Nicole: Gotcha. So in 2020, it was just a really big year for you.

Kelsey: It was, there was a lot going on. I cannot wait to tell Arden what her first year of life was like, because I, I can't believe it.

Nicole: Oh my goodness. Absolutely. So looking back on things, is there anything that you wish you could have possibly known beforehand? I mean, you sound like you were already like pretty prepared. Is there anything that you looking back still wish you would've known?

Kelsey: I think so. I just wish I would have given myself more grace, especially with the first loss. Um, I just, I didn't cope with that very well. I didn't know how to cope with it and nobody really does. You know, when you go through, um, a loss, you, you don't know until you go through it, what it's going to be like, but, um, I don't think I handled it as well as I could have. I wish I would have reached out for, um, support earlier, um, because it really has been so nice to talk to a therapist about it in hindsight now. Um, but I wish I would have reached out for help earlier.

Nicole: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So would that would that be, I always ask what is the one piece of advice that you would tell other women as they get ready for their birth, but what would that be?

Kelsey: My biggest piece of advice with this, especially since I am such a planner and I love to be in control so much of situations is you really, you need to be flexible, um, with your pregnancy and your childbirth experience, and it's great to plan and it's great to have a plan in place. It definitely helps. Um, but you also need to be open to, you know, if things don't go as planned, um, how will you handle that? Um, because you know, I, there's no way I could have planned for what, what happens, um, especially with the first pregnancy. And, um, it's just about how you react to it and how you try to make the most out of the situation that you are dealt and, um, how to move on and ask for support in those instances.

Nicole: 100%, 100%. Well, Kelsey, thank you so much for coming on. If you don't know it, you are so incredibly strong. I mean, my goodness, you have endured a lot and you just like your voice, you just sound like you've come to a place where you're at so much more, um, peace and have kind of like helped. You've kind of, you sound like you've persevered through a very difficult situation and then coming on and being able to talk about it. I just really appreciate it and admire you for your strength in doing so.

Kelsey: Well, thank you so much. I'm so happy that I'm able to share my story. Um, when I was going through all of this, I, I couldn't find any resources of, um, women who terminated. So I felt so alone and like, oh, well obviously people are either shamed too ashamed about this, or I'm the only one who's gone through it. So I I'm hoping that my story, although difficult to share can help other women in the future.

Nicole: Absolutely. Absolutely. Well, again, thank you so much. I, so, so appreciate it. And you take care.

Kelsey: Thank you. You as well.

Nicole: Didn't I tell you that that was going to be amazing. Wow. Wow. Wow. I am really grateful that Kelsey came on to share her story with us now, you know, after every episode where I have a guest on, I do something called Nicole's Notes where I pull my top three or four takeaways from the conversation. There were so many points that I could pick from, from this episode. It was actually hard to narrow it down, but here we go with Nicole's Notes from my conversation with Kelsey, number one, most genetic conditions that occur during pregnancy are spontaneous. There are a few things like sickle cell anemia and cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy that can be inherited. But again, the vast majority of genetic conditions that pop up are spontaneous. It's common for people to say that there was nothing in my family. I don't understand why that happened, but it's actually most likely the case that there isn't anything in your family.

Nicole: These things just pop up for reasons that we don't always understand. Now, the good news about that is that it's not likely to recur again. Now that may not be helpful in the moment, but it can be reassuring that the next time around whatever genetic condition affected the pregnancy, it's not likely to happen again. Number two, ending a pregnancy can be a very emotionally difficult and complicated situation. And this is why I will always say that the government should have little to no say in the decision for a woman to end a pregnancy. This is something that she can and should decide in consultation with her doctor. There's a lot of misinformation out there about terminating a pregnancy like partial birth abortions up until the end of pregnancy that really does not happen. And I will eventually do a podcast episode on abortion. It will be the same evidence-based presentation of information that I, that I always do not persuading either way.

Nicole: I just want to present a factual representation of it. So stay tuned for that episode in the near future. Number three, I was really glad to see that her doctor did not push induction because the baby was suspected to be big, ACOG, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that in the absence of diabetes, we don't offer Cesarean unless the baby suspected weight is 11 pounds. Unfortunately not all doctors adhere to that, but as you can see some do. And I also appreciate that, uh, her doctor and hospital took that postpartum bleeding very seriously. Postpartum bleeding is one of the leading causes of maternal mortality. So, um, just kudos and shout out to her doctor for providing that great evidence-based care. And then two more quick things I told you, I had a lot of things from this episode. So two more quick things.

Nicole: It's perfectly okay if you want to be induced. Sometimes there can be some backlash against induction, but as long as you know what's involved, you know, the risk or the benefits, what you're getting into, you can make a decision that works best for you. So don't feel bad. Don't feel guilty if you're even thinking about you want to be induced. And then the final thing, just a gentle reminder that fed is best. Kelsey had trouble with breastfeeding in a unique way that I had never heard of. Um, I always called breastfeeding a labor of love. It's not always easy. So do your best, do your best to take care of you, take care of your baby. Remember that fed is best in the end. All right. So there you have it. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast in Apple Podcast, Google Play, Spotify.

Nicole: There's Amazon. Amazon has podcasts. You can listen to podcasts there as well. And I would really appreciate you leaving an honest review in Apple Podcast in particular. It helps other women to find the show. And if you otherwise, if you're not like in the Apple universe, I am not in the Apple universe. I am team Google team Android all the way. So if you are not in the Apple universe and you want to let me know about the podcast and shoot me a DM on Instagram, I'm on Instagram @drnicolerankins. I always love to hear folks thoughts about the podcast or a screenshot yourself listening to it and post it in your stories and I'll, and tag me in it @drnicolerankins I love to repost those in my own stories. And also don't forget about The Birth Preparation Course, my signature online childbirth education class, that ensures you're calm, confident, and empowered to have a beautiful birth, check out all the details of the course at drnicolerankins.com/enroll. So that is it for this episode, do come on back next week. And until then, I wish you a beautiful pregnancy and birth. Thanks so much for listening to this episode of the All About Pregnancy & Birth podcast, head to my website, drnicolerankins.com to get even more great information, including free downloadable resources on how to manage pain and labor and warning signs to look out for after birth. You'll also find information on my free online class, on How To Make A Birth Plan That Works, as well as everything you need to know about my signature online childbirth education class, the Birth Preparation Course. Again, that's drnicolerankins.com and I will see you next week.